PHOENIX – From Jason Kidd’s perspective, there’s no need for his team to get too high just because a pivotal win-or-go home Game 7 is the next game on his team’s schedule.
Kidd, in fact, doesn’t believe there’s any pressure surrounding Game 7.
“I think it’s basketball and you got to have fun with it,” the Dallas Mavericks’ coach said after Saturday’s practice session. “I think the team that’s closer to executing their game wins the game.”
Kidd also believes he or his players shouldn’t go out of their way adding anything extra to their plate just because they’re playing a do-or-die Game 7 Sunday at 7 p.m. at Footprint Center against the Phoenix Suns. All of that “extra,’ he believes, could throw a player off their game.
“For the most part I don’t try to change anything for just one game,” Kidd said. “You’ve got to stay in character.
“The coach stays in character, the players stay in character. Everyone stays in character, and then you execute.”
Ironically, this series has stayed in character as the home team has won all six games. But do the Mavs have an advantage since they’re coming off handing the Suns their worst defeat of this year’s playoffs – a 113-86 shellacking in Dallas this past Thursday — and tied the series at 3-3?
“That’s a good question,” Kidd said. “I don’t know the answer to that. Every game this series has been dominated by the home team at home. We’ve got to find a way to win on the road.
“But I don’t know if momentum means anything in a sense that coming into Game 7. We found a way to protect home. Now we’ve got to find a way to win on the road.”
Foer the most part, it’s been a disaster for the Mavs in Phoenix in this series.
The Mavs were down 21 points in Game 1 in Phoenix and lost 121-114, they were down 27 points in Phoenix in Game 2 and lost 129-109, and they were down 30 points in Game 5 in Phoenix and lost 110-80.
Those are numbers Kidd knows has to drastically change if the Mavs have designs of advancing to the Western Conference Finals against the Golden State Warriors in a best-of-seven series that starts Wednesday in San Francisco.
“We haven’t had an opportunity to get to the fourth quarter in Phoenix, and hopefully we can do that,” Kidd said. “Our offense has been horrendous on the road, and our offense has to be better on the road.
“Again, we’ve got to take care of the ball. We understand playing in a hostile environment, and it’s loud. It was loud in Utah (in the first round of the playoffs).”
Guard Spencer Dinwiddie has never played in a Game 7, but said he’s knowledgeable to know: “These are the moments you live for. Obviously, Phoenix was the best team in the regular season (with a 64-18 record).
“Obviously they’re at home, hostile environment. But you know they also say Game 7 typically goes to the best player, and I believe we have that in this series. It’s going to be an exciting clash of styles.”
That “best player” Dinwiddie is referring to is Mavs superstar point guard Luka Doncic, who is averaging 32.2 points in this series and has given the Suns fits. If the Mavs’ supporting cast can hold their own, the Mavs will be able to pull off the upset of all upsets and dethrone the defending Western Conference champions.
The Mavs know they can effectively play in Phoenix. They just have to do it for a full four quarters.
The Mavs were ahead at halftime in Game 2 in Phoenix, 60-58, and were only behind, 89-83, after the third quarter before collapsing in the final period. And the Mavs were only down, 49-46, at halftime of Game 5 in Phoenix before committing 12 turnovers and getting outscored, 33-14, in the third quarter.
However, the Mavs bounced back in Game 6 and forced the Suns into their lowest shooting percentage of this year’s playoffs (39.7 percent). They also forced the Suns into committing 22 turnovers, which is their highest of this year’s postseason.
So the Mavs know if they shore up a few things here and there in this arena, they can get out of town with a victory.
“Just stick to the game plan and attention to detail,” Dinwiddie said. “We know they’re going to be energized. They’re going to come out firing.
“We can’t expect to see them have 22 turnovers again. But we’ve got to do what we need to do to try limit their quality looks.”
The Mavs also have to play at Footprint Center as if they’re playing at American Airlines Center. And they also have to come up with the lion’s share of 50/50 balls.
“Obviously homecourt advantage is a thing, but it’s not everything,” said Dinwiddie, who was 5-of-7 on three-pointers in Game 6. “We’ve shown that in spots we can stop them.
“If you look at a couple of the first halves over there, we were up. And then we had certain points where we collapsed. But if we can take that type of game (the Mavs had in Game 6) on the road and obviously defend – and hopefully hold them in that 40 percent range and turn them over a little bit – then we give ourselves a phenomenal chance to win.”
Last year the Mavs were involved in an unusual first-round best-of-seven series against the Los Angeles Clippers as the road team won the first six games. The Clippers, however, won Game 7 at home and the series.
Since everything got flipped in the Mavs-Clippers series, the Mavs are hoping everything will be flipped in the Mavs-Suns series with the road team finally prevailing and punching their ticket to San Francisco.
“We’re going to go for 48 minutes to play a really physical game,” guard Frank Ntilikina said. “We really think we can do something great, so we’re going to give it our all in this game.”
And as the Mavs try to defy all odds and “do something great” while attempting to beat the team with the No. 1 overall seed in the NBA this season, they know this is a tall task. But they also know they’ve already beaten the Suns three times in this series during a time when many so-called experts thought Phoenix was going to sweep the Mavs.
Kidd’s philosophy entering a pressure-less Game 7 for the Mavs is simple.
“Just enjoy the moment, embrace it and have fun,” he said. “Do your job.
“Again, I’ve always said, stay in character. And if you do that hopefully that gives us an opportunity to win.”
NTILIKINA BACK IN THE FOLD: Guard Frank Ntilikina is back in the fold after undergoing a tonsillectomy during the week of April 15.
Having his tonsils removed, Ntilikina said: “wasn’t planned. So what happened, happened. Obviously, it’s not the best timing, but it happened and I fought my way back to join the team.
“It’s the past now and I’m happy I worked my way through it.”
Ntilikina, who didn’t play in the first-round series against Utah, has been a major factor on the defensive end of the floor against the Suns.
“I thought in the last series we didn’t play a lot of bodies, so Frank was on the docket to play (against the Suns),” coach Jason Kidd said. “I felt that Frank, if healthy, can help us on both ends of the ball, and you saw that in the last game defensively — he was good for us.
“He did hit a big (three-pointer in Game 4), but we don’t judge him on offense. We only look at him from the defensive side of the ball, and I think he’s done a really good job for us.”
By the way, Ntilikina said he indulged in some cookie cream ice cream while recovering from tonsillectomy.
BRIEFLY: Since Suns point guard Chris Paul turned 37 years old on May 6, the Mavs have turned him into just an ordinary basketball player. When Paul was still 36 years old, he had 18 field goals and only four turnovers in the first two games of this series. But in the four games in this series since he aged one year, Paul has just 14 field goals and a whopping 18 turnovers. And this from a player duly noted for protecting the basketball. . .It also should be noted that the Mavs have targeted Paul. Whenever he’s bringing the ball up the floor, the 17-year veteran is being guarded by a member of the Mavs. And whenever the Mavs go into their high pick-n-roll offense with Luka Doncic having the ball, they make sure the player Paul was originally guarding comes up so – on the switch — Paul will wind up guarding Doncic one-on-one. Doncic (6-7, 230) is seven inches taller and 55 pounds heavier than Paul (6-0, 175). Advantage Mavs. . .On those 22 turnovers which the Suns committed in Game 6 – and which the Mavs turned into 29 points — coach Jason Kidd said: “We were just trying to get high hands and get deflections, be active. Our defense has been active at home and now we have to be active on the road. We understand what we have to do and we’re going to have the opportunity to do that tomorrow.”
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